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gethin

Race to the bottom

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I just quoted on a job. Required 3 trips to location, 3 lots of drone work and shooting on a roof and a little interview.

I quoted $2200 Aud (about 1500 usd) for a 2-3 min finished vid or $275 per hour  ($195usd) for the raw footage, only.  Got message back that he didn't have a lot of money to spend on the vid, and ultimately that i was too expensive, and I just wonder what folk expect when they phone about that sort of job. $500? I am seeing this more and more. Time to give up on video and become a plumber.

 

 

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2 hours ago, gethin said:

I just quoted on a job. Required 3 trips to location, 3 lots of drone work and shooting on a roof and a little interview.

I quoted $2200 Aud (about 1500 usd) for a 2-3 min finished vid or $275 per hour  ($195usd) for the raw footage, only.  Got message back that he didn't have a lot of money to spend on the vid, and ultimately that i was too expensive, and I just wonder what folk expect when they phone about that sort of job. $500? I am seeing this more and more. Time to give up on video and become a plumber.

I have read magazines and followed people on forums across several industries and there is a point that each business-owner reaches at some point in their career which will decide if they go on to be successful or to struggle and perhaps close up shop.

That point is where they are worth more than the majority of available budgets and they either take the view that some clients aren't worth working for, or they go negative and complain about budgets but muddle through.  Those who choose the first approach take the path of charging a healthy amount for their work but also focusing on customer service and quality of work, and are respected in-turn by their clients.  These people normally make that decision blind, that is they decide not to take the under-budget work even through they have no confidence that they will be able to win enough work to stay in business, and they often reflect back saying they don't know why they were worried and that they've built a client-base of good clients who appreciate their work and the value they bring.

In a contracting or rapidly changing industry this decision becomes more important as it's the people that don't value themselves and go negative that end up going out of business.

Work hard, do your best, but value yourself.... We teach the world how to treat us by how we treat ourselves.

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I hate to say it but this is the direction things are moving in for "regular" clients. It's not to be unexpected, really. The key is evolving, and adapting to the way things are going and making it work for you. 

I'll get guff for saying it, but if someone offers me $500 for a 4 hour shoot and a 2-3 minute edit, and I'm available, I'm taking it. Why? Because I see friends, many with degrees, barely making that a week in their jobs. I don't feel it's devaluing myself, I don't personally put that much ego into my work, as much as looking at it from a business aspect and doing what needs to be done to make sure the bills are paid and I'm doing okay. And often times those gigs lead to bigger/better gigs. 

To me the motto I'd encourage is simple: stay humble and stay hungry. Be grateful that they see enough value in your work to have you do it instead of their nephew and his iPhone, which, if you look at a lot of small companies on YouTube, is pretty typical. 

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6 minutes ago, newfoundmass said:

I hate to say it but this is the direction things are moving in for "regular" clients. It's not to be unexpected, really. The key is evolving, and adapting to the way things are going and making it work for you. 

I'll get guff for saying it, but if someone offers me $500 for a 4 hour shoot and a 2-3 minute edit, and I'm available, I'm taking it. Why? Because I see friends, many with degrees, barely making that a week in their jobs. I don't feel it's devaluing myself, I don't personally put that much ego into my work, as much as looking at it from a business aspect and doing what needs to be done to make sure the bills are paid and I'm doing okay. And often times those gigs lead to bigger/better gigs. 

To me the motto I'd encourage is simple: stay humble and stay hungry. Be grateful that they see enough value in your work to have you do it instead of their nephew and his iPhone, which, if you look at a lot of small companies on YouTube, is pretty typical. 

Do you live in India? you cant live on 500$ gross per week in most of the rest of the world. I would not go freelance unless I am sure I at least make 350$ gross per day.   

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We do corporate, events and weddings etc. Lots of competition on price everywhere and very difficult to compete. An example would be a wedding we quoted for and the couple ended up with someone they found on Instagram who did all the fotos for 160€ including 20 prints. I have no idea how they make a living out of that.

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4 minutes ago, zerocool22 said:

Do you live in India? you cant live on 500$ gross per week in most of the rest of the world. I would not go freelance unless I am sure I at least make 350$ gross per day.   

After taxes/insurance, etc. get taken out, $500 a week is pretty standard for millennials in the US. The median household income in the US is only $56,000 or so. I have friends that make $40,000 or so a year, but I'd say that accounts for maybe half, give or take? 

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20 minutes ago, Thpriest said:

We do corporate, events and weddings etc. Lots of competition on price everywhere and very difficult to compete. An example would be a wedding we quoted for and the couple ended up with someone they found on Instagram who did all the fotos for 160€ including 20 prints. I have no idea how they make a living out of that.

They probably don't. It is either the beginning of their career and they have build up their reputation or they have day jobs. Once they become too expensive, another up-and-coming player will take their place. Hopefully, they haven't quite their day job by then.

At the end of the day, the marketplace can only support so many full time professional videographers and there will always be a need for "just good enough" amateur jobs. Speaking without any statistics to go on, videography is more accessible than ever and more and more people try to make a living doing it and that is why there has been a more vocal outcry about the diminishing prices of jobs. If a reasonably good videographer was hard to get, prices could be higher.

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Low budget video work is getting worse and worse. Where I'm at I'm definitely seeing a trend where quality is getting completely sacrificed to keep costs down in lower budget ad agencies. There's a constant struggle between the demand do cut corners and make things just "good enough" and the actual desire for competitive quality. Often this means things get done unplanned and undermanned. The client expectations-client budget meme is so real it's not even funny anymore and often the budget dictaded downgrades destroy any chances the end product had. It's come to a point where my professional agency work is very rarely of the kind of quality I'd put in my own demo reel - it consists almost solely of productions that are commissioned directly from myself.

I'm firmly in the quality camp and keep telling the agencies I work for that you can't keep making mediocrity - you will be eaten alive by hungry newcomers willing to put in the work for less money, and skewing the price/expectation ratio even further. I don't know where it ends. Maybe natural selection will occur, or maybe some kind of crash of video production companies as most become impossible to maintain. We'll see.

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I am in the wedding business, photography & video and have mixed views on this.

First of all, there is a lot more competition. a LOT more. Since I started out close to 20 years ago, there are at least as 10x as many offering a service.

Also, the competition is a LOT better than it ever has been, both in quality of output and in regard to marketing it.

Video is less crowded than photography however as the learning curve is steeper and the production times longer, - less appeal for many ie, less see it as a fast buck, whereas with photography, everyone with a camera thinks they can do it.

Bollocks, it takes years and dozens of different scenarios to get really good at it. I came from 5 years of college and uni photography and reckon it took me nearly 8 years until I felt I really knew what i was doing without having to really think about it.

Then there is this 'race to the bottom'. It's been talked about for years and to an extent, it is true...but at the same time, not completely.

The trick of it is twofold.

First, you need to be offering something that is on another level to 'the rest'. I am not saying you need to be the best in the world, but better than anyone else they will probably look at. Ideally, you need to have a number of 'points of difference' and deliver this message with clarity. People have increasingly shorter attention spans.

Second, you need to be found by the type of people that are your clients. This may only be 1% of the entire market. Or less. If you are trying to appeal to all and catch fish with a massive net, you might actually be better off with a rod and fishing for one species only.

In regard to the latter, you can try and have a broad appeal and try to snag that 1% through the sheer volume approach or target your marketing and have a much smaller volume of contact, but a much higher booking rate.

I've found the latter works for me and prefer the 'larger fish in the smaller pond' approach works better.

Over the years, I have seen so many 'young bucks' come into the industry.

First of all they are full of enthusiasm and it drives them for a while and all that energy helps compensate for the relatively low prices most charge, fully intending to put them up once established.

They then try to do that and the work begins to dry up. Most then give up and go back to their 9-5 day job with all it's securities when they realise the reality is not swanning around the world at their clients expense and editing on a laptop in coffee shops.

One other thing I have found is that 'good enough' is not good enough and you need to go above and beyond simply to maintain your position. It's extremely easy to get sucked downstream and incredibly hard to swim upstream/against the current.

The latter can be done, but to get that extra 10%, often requires another 100% effort. Is it worth it? Maybe...

But yes, I 'lose' out sometimes to the sub 500 photographer who either promises the moon on a stick, or more often than not, don't and they (the clients) know they won't be getting much...but that exists in all kinds of services. Or the client deludes themselves that the cheaper option will work out for them only to regret it. Doesn't help us if they do however as folks rarely pay twice and in weddings, never.

To conclude, another couple of attributes any small creative business needs are a thick skin and a lot of drive/determination.

I would not want to be starting out in photography/video today knowing what I know and would persuade my daughter against it.

The bottom line though is that there IS a market still and a very good one but it's a case of finding the right one for you and working it. Continually. Just like an athlete, there are some people who are naturally gifted, but they can and will be beaten by someone with not so far off genetics that grafts harder then the rest.

Oh and one other thought, I have tried several times unsuccessfully to get into the commercial market and in the end gave up concluding I could just not make it work for whatever reason, so I plod along with weddings which I genuinely enjoy shooting. Not overly keen on the whole industry and what goes on behind the scenes, but that is another story...

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21 minutes ago, JurijTurnsek said:

Speaking without any statistics to go on, videography is more accessible than ever and more and more people try to make a living doing it and that is why there has been a more vocal outcry about the diminishing prices of jobs. If a reasonably good videographer was hard to get, prices could be higher.

This +++++

I started in video before the DSLR revolution & it then required a considerable investment in equipment before you could offer your services. While undoubtedly the market for video has grown the pool of people doing video has grown exponentially because the entry cost is now so low. I stopped doing pro video five years ago as I wasn't earning as much as needed & found the low balling competition & general expectations of customers so demoralising.

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5 hours ago, gethin said:

I just quoted on a job. Required 3 trips to location, 3 lots of drone work and shooting on a roof and a little interview.

I quoted $2200 Aud (about 1500 usd) for a 2-3 min finished vid or $275 per hour  ($195usd) for the raw footage, only.  Got message back that he didn't have a lot of money to spend on the vid, and ultimately that i was too expensive, and I just wonder what folk expect when they phone about that sort of job. $500? I am seeing this more and more. Time to give up on video and become a plumber.

 

 

I live on a second (or 3rd) class South-east European country that people expect to offer ALL the equipmemt and most of post processing for free.

There are unlimited people buying an 80D and do video in their spare time. I know at least a dozen policemen that do weddings and events and they charge a little less than me. I have met carpenters, firemen, handy men, students - you name it.

Also, political and family connections is the only way to reach the top (it is Balkans here. Watch the "Graduation"/"Baccalaureate" the Romanian film, and you will understand).

I recently took 50€ to do a 4 hour work, with my 10.000€ of sound equipment for some kids that without studying anything similar, or with any work experience are supposed to be the next big things, just because their parents introduced them to a very famous TV director here, he is putting them in national TV!

I have 3 degrees, studying and working for a decade in different countries, and working experience of 20 years (this June) and it is very difficult to compete with professional-amateurs and system-leeches.

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I'm one of those guys ruining the market. Because of my regular job, I don't need to make any profit from my video work. Still, I enjoy spending 20 hours a week doing video projects whether I get paid for it or not, which means the quality of what I'm producing is steadily improving. Not quite professional level yet, but good enough for most. Should I refrain from low-balling projects if that means I don't get to work with what I like? On the other hand, I would never do 10 weddings in a row or 20 corporate interviews simply because I would find it immensely boring, so it would only ruin the market if there are a lot of people like me.

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3 hours ago, newfoundmass said:

After taxes/insurance, etc. get taken out, $500 a week is pretty standard for millennials in the US. The median household income in the US is only $56,000 or so. I have friends that make $40,000 or so a year, but I'd say that accounts for maybe half, give or take? 

As a freelancer? Maybe taxes are different in the US then in the EU. We only keep around 1/3 of our gross income the rest goes to taxes. 

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A friend of a friend is/was the manager of a band asked for my help & I did a few live videos for them, charged them peanuts (£200 for each) as I knew that they didn't have much cash. They asked me to do a doc type thing to promote them, so I quoted £400 & they agreed. However.....they paid me late for one video (6 months) & then asked if they could have the finished doc (which wasn't finished at that time) and they would pay me later. Now it took them nearly 6 months to pay me £200, so in my mind I would have to wait a year for £400 & there was always the chance that I'd never see it. I said no, they would have to come up with at least half the cash first.

I didn't hear back from them for a few months, but thought it was Christmas so no biggy. I check out there Facebook page & what do I see......a rough copy of the doc that they had ripped from Vimeo using some pretty bad app/program, as it looked like low res shit. To top it all off, the post on FB said "this is a doc we made about ourselves" - no mention of me, no thanks just them claiming to have made the film they had stolen.....! YouTube took it down within the hour!

There are loads of people out there who want something for nothing or nearly nothing...lesson learnt!

 

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Having connection definitely helps, that how we we were able to get some jobs from big Corp that pay pretty good price. 

 

We don’t really do sub $1000 jobs anymore, we leave those to freelancers or one man band who have much lower overhead.

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4 hours ago, newfoundmass said:

I'll get guff for saying it, but if someone offers me $500 for a 4 hour shoot and a 2-3 minute edit, and I'm available, I'm taking it. Why? Because I see friends, many with degrees, barely making that a week in their jobs. I don't feel it's devaluing myself, I don't personally put that much ego into my work, as much as looking at it from a business aspect and doing what needs to be done to make sure the bills are paid and I'm doing okay. And often times those gigs lead to bigger/better gigs. 


Don't forget "opportunity cost", if you take that one day of $500 means you miss out on a whole week of $800/day then you've lost out big time.

 

This past year I've definitely been charging more than I used to and working more.

3 hours ago, Thpriest said:

We do corporate, events and weddings etc. Lots of competition on price everywhere and very difficult to compete. An example would be a wedding we quoted for and the couple ended up with someone they found on Instagram who did all the fotos for 160€ including 20 prints. I have no idea how they make a living out of that.

They're NOT making a living as a wedding photographer, they're playing at it. 

2 hours ago, MrSMW said:

First, you need to be offering something that is on another level to 'the rest'. I am not saying you need to be the best in the world, but better than anyone else they will probably look at. Ideally, you need to have a number of 'points of difference' and deliver this message with clarity. People have increasingly shorter attention spans.

 

This. You don't need to "the best" in the world, or even in your city, but at least be the best that they are checking out!

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1 hour ago, zerocool22 said:

As a freelancer? Maybe taxes are different in the US then in the EU. We only keep around 1/3 of our gross income the rest goes to taxes. 

Here is 50%-60% taxes (and other similar stuff).

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